Parenting on the Road -- Summer Driving Safety Tips

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(ARA) "Are we there yet?" Four familiar words that will be heard by parents in vehicles traveling on roads this summer across the country. But are you taking the necessary precautions to make sure that your family is arriving "there" safely?

While cruising the open road is one of summer's great pleasures, this pleasure can turn tragic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA) states that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age 4 to 14. So what can you do to keep your children as safe as possible?

Being aware of driving hazards and taking precautions before you leave is the first step to preventing motor vehicle dangers. You are transporting your most precious cargo; take the time now to check the condition of your vehicle and make any repairs.

The Car Safety Summer Checklist

Windshield Safety

If your windshield has a rock chip or ding at winter's end, that damage needs to be repaired before "thermal shock" causes the minor ding to turn into a major crack. Thermal shock can occur when cold air from the air conditioning blows directly on a windshield that is scalding hot from exposure to the summer sun.

"The windshield is a key element of the structure of the car," says Jon Thomas, senior design engineer of Novus Auto Glass. "If you let a ding or small break increase it could lead to a larger crack jeopardizing the structural integrity of the vehicle as the windshield is a key component in the rollover safety structure and passenger-side airbag deflection point on modern vehicles." To attain optimum consumer safety, Thomas recommends repairing a windshield whenever possible, instead of replacing it. Repair not only saves the windshield, it preserves the factory's seal of windshield to auto body. Keeping the factory's original adhesive set also helps avoid air and water leaks. Drivers can call (800) 77-NOVUS to find a local Novus dealer even while they are out traveling.

"It is best to repair small dings and breaks right away before they turn into cracks" says Thomas. "If the damage is reported quickly, the odds are much improved that the windshield can be saved."


Checking fluids is the least expensive and most important preventive maintenance you can do. Oil should be changed frequently (every 3,000 to 5,000 miles) if you haul heavy loads or drive in stop-and-go traffic.

Remember to flush your radiator and change your engine coolant every two years. Summer is extremely hard on a car's cooling system, so inspect your radiator for obvious signs of corrosion or leaking. If in doubt, have your mechanic check the radiator core to ensure it is not plugged or at risk of imminent failure.

Make sure you also check and fill to recommended levels other fluids integral to your vehicle's performance. These fluids include: power steering, transmission, brake, radiator and battery. And don't forget to top off windshield washer fluid.

Batteries and Corroded Cables

Summer heat can wreak havoc on batteries. The average life of a battery is 3 1/2 years. If your battery is at or near that age, then it may be ready for replacement. Have a qualified technician load test your battery and inspect the cable ends and battery terminals. If any corrosion exists on the terminals and cables, the trained professional should remove it.

Anything Made of Rubber

Worn, bald or badly aligned or balanced tires can mean accidents. Be sure to check your owner's manual for the recommended tire pressure. Tire pressure is critical in summer, especially when carrying heavy loads. Under-inflated tires cause heat build up that can lead to sudden tire failure or blowout.

Goodyear Tire Company estimates that Americans waste $2 billion annually on fuel due to the additional rolling resistance created by under inflated tires. An SUV owner can spend an extra $700 on gasoline annually if the tires are under inflated according to Goodyear. Tire pressure should be checked and air added when the tires are cold (not driven on for at least 1 hour).

If traveling in remote areas, it may even be wise to carry a full-size spare tire instead of a space-saving emergency spare, or donut, as they are sometimes called. Temporary emergency spares usually have a 50-to-100 mile life expectancy, which may be inadequate for long trips. Ensure that the spare is also inflated to the proper pressure.

Rubber parts under your hood need maintenance, too. Radiator, heater and vacuum hoses, among others, should be inspected for cracks and bulges. Take a roll of duct tape with you on your trip; it can be a lifesaver in fixing hoses. Also, inspect all belts for damage and splits.

Spark Plugs

Worn or misfiring spark plugs can affect how efficiently a vehicle burns the fuel/air mixture, ultimately affecting engine performance. Worn spark plugs waste gas and increase exhaust emissions, so have them checked and replaced as needed.


Don't postpone needed brake work. It's dangerous to drive with poorly performing brakes. Postponing brake service also can cause the cost of overhauling your brake system to skyrocket.


Check your headlights, taillights and turn signals for safety's sake.

Be Prepared

Before you leave for your drive, be sure to pack extra radiator coolant, several quarts of oil, safety flares and whatever tools you might need. It is better to be prepared than sorry. Always carry a roadside emergency and first aid kit and look into investing in a cellular phone.

Courtesy of ARA Content


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